We're not convinced.

Rescue Drones

In an effort to save people from drowning at New York City beaches, city police say they plan on deploying drones that can throw down flotation devices, The City reports — but questions abound about their effectiveness and privacy concerns.

Operators will first be deploying the drones at Coney Island, said Mayor Eric Adams during a press conference attended by The City this week. Beachgoers will see them in action this summer, he added.

"The goal is, we’re going to be utilizing these drones for public safety, and beach safety," New York Police Department (NYPD) Deputy Commissioner for Operations Kaz Daughtry said in a video on the social media platform X-formerly Twitter.

"We’re gonna deploy these drones on the beach, the pilots will be flying up and down the beach keeping beachgoers and swimmers safe," he added.

Big Brother at the Beach

Besides throwing down floatation devices, the drones can communicate with lifeguards, the mayor said. They've been used in Australia and France to drop a floatation device to struggling swimmers, where they were reportedly able to help people.

United States Lifesaving Association spokesperson Tom Gill told The City that drones may help in some situations but not all, and the technology isn't an easy fix.

"It’s not just as easy as throwing something up in the air and it’s all going to work perfectly," he told the news outlet. "A panicked victim in the water is not somebody that’s easily assessed or is easy to even help when we are directly in contact with them, much less trying to drop something in that situation."

The other big problem with drones is privacy. The NYPD already has a shaky reputation with privacy and surveillance, exemplified by its years-long monitoring of Muslims and the lack of public oversight over tools they currently use including other controversial robots.

Basically, these drones could be used to violate people's civil liberties even while case law is still evolving on the use of drones by law enforcement.

After all, imagine you're sunbathing topless and a NYPD drone flies overhead. What's going to happen to that footage? And who's going to watch the watchers?

More on drones: Startup Says Its Coin-sized Nuclear Battery Could Fly Drones "Continuously"

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